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Tempting Dishes to Share with Friends in Edinburgh's Tapas Restaurants



Tapas restaurants and bars are very popular in Edinburgh, perhaps because they are perfect for those wanting a drink and a bite to eat as well as some lively conversation.

Tapas developed in the Andalusian region of Spain and became popular across the country before being exported across the globe. It is thought that the name “tapas” (which translates as “lid”) refers to the fact that in Andalusian pubs bartenders used to put plates over the top of sherry glasses to prevent fruit flies being attracted to the liquor. Bars began to compete to top these plates with tasty morsels of food and as chorizo and ham were both salty (and therefore encouraged patrons to drink more) they became great tapas favorites.

In keeping with their origin, tapas dishes are meant to be a small portion of something lovely and for a full meal you order a few dishes and share them with friends. Tapa in Leith is the perfect spot to sample some traditional Spanish dishes.

As new ingredients and cooking styles were brought to Spain, new dishes were added to the repertoire and tapas style dining widened its horizons. Now you can now enjoy tapas style dishes from many other cultures too. Indian tapas is particularly popular with restaurants such as Tuk Tuk serving delicious street food.

Traditional or unconventional, you are sure to be beguiled by the variety and flavor of tapas if you check out the restaurants on our list.


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El Quijote
Photo courtesy of El Quijote


El Quijote is a charming and authentic tapas bar with loads of charisma. The menu largely features Andalusian specialties rather than the tired combination of tortilla, paella and patatas bravas served up by other tapas restaurants (although some of the old favorites such as calamares are thankfully still present) and the result is both surprising and delicious. If in doubt, ask your server for advice, as they are always happy to chat with enthusiasm about their food. The decor is rustic, heading towards slightly cheesy, with saffron painted walls, terracotta dishes, cartwheels suspended from the ceiling and a large picture of the eponymous Quijote (Don Quixote), but the welcome is always warm and the dishes generous and flavorsome.

Recommended for Tapas because: Great, traditional tapas in a warm and welcoming environment make this restaurant well worth a visit.

Simon's expert tip: Many dishes come with chips, but these are in fact delicious and very moreish sauteed potatoes.

Read more about El Quijote →




La Tasca is a great Tapas restaurant located in the heart of Edinburgh. The interior is warm terracotta, dotted with brightly painted pottery and tiles. Wooden benches and chairs are studded with colorful cushions and candles flicker invitingly. The menu contains a wide array of delicious tapas dishes and there are some very good set menus for larger parties. Spanish restaurants are traditionally very welcoming for families and La Tasca certainly lives up to this. The children's menu is better than most and there is a spacious baby changing area. The dining area is large, but the restaurant is popular and there is usually quite a buzz.

Recommended for Tapas because: La Tasca is warm and inviting and the tapas dishes are delicious.

Simon's expert tip: You can book the private party room and add a cocktail sampling session or salsa master class to your evening!

Read more about La Tasca →


8
Portobello/Joppa/Musselburgh


Malvarosa is named after the beach in Valencia, and is located in Portobello – close to Edinburgh's beach. It has a wonderfully laid back and friendly atmosphere and the owner is always present to welcome guests. Inside the restaurant, subtle terracotta tones mingle with rich warm wood and beautiful pictures. The effect is comfortable and stylish without being too ostentatious. The décor may be understated, but the food has bags of personality. They source fresh produce locally and each dish is prepared with loving attention to detail. A relative newcomer to the Edinburgh dining scene, Malvorosa has rightly gained a reputation for producing delicious and authentic tapas.

Recommended for Tapas because: Malvarosa serves great authentic tapas in a relaxed and chic environment.

Simon's expert tip: Don't miss their txoripan – beautifully light and savoury, chorizo-flecked homemade bread.

Read more about Malvarosa →


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La Sal is a cozy little tapas restaurant in the heart of Newington close to the Pleasance and Edinburgh University. The interior is simple and comfortable with rich warm wood complimented by warm dark blue walls and colorful prints. You can also choose to sit outside and soak up the atmosphere in warm weather. The menu contains a wide range of traditional tapas dishes and some great steak dishes for those with less adventurous tastes. All of the dishes have a wonderful homemade feel to them and it is clear that the staff have a genuine love of authentic Andalusian cuisine and culture.

Recommended for Tapas because: La Sal offers great traditional tapas and live performances of flamenco guitar and dancing.

Simon's expert tip: Close ties with Alba Flamenca, the dance school next door, means regular performances of traditional flamenco dancing accompanied by wonderful live Spanish guitar.

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Tapame offers what may at first seem to be a strange combination of Spanish tapas and Greek mezze dishes. With a menu which includes many tapas favorites but adds to them a wide selection of meat and cheese platters, great salads, pasta and rice dishes as well as seafood and soup there is certainly something to suit every taste. As with most tapas restaurants, the trick is to choose a variety of dishes and share them with friends. Unlike many tapas restaurants, there are remarkably few weak points in the menu, and the dishes are both reasonably priced and generous in quantity. Tapame has certainly endeared itself to the local population and seems set to become a permanent feature on the Edinburgh dining scene.

Recommended for Tapas because: Tapame brings something new to tapas style dining with its Spanish-Greek fusion menu

Simon's expert tip: The "selection of spreads with bread" may not sound inspiring, but it includes a smoked aubergine tapenade which is wonderfully smoky and very moreish

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The idea here is to share your food and experience something new. Mother India's Cafe offers a twist on the tapas style so each person orders a few dishes and everyone tucks in. The dishes are a bit bigger than traditional tapas so you won't want to go overboard ordering too many but this is a great way to enjoy Punjabi Indian food and taste different dishes. It's especially fun if you are dining in a group. The service is very good, the atmosphere is welcoming and the prices are reasonable. Mother India has four establishments in Glasgow and their Edinburgh offshoot is also proving to be a big hit with locals and visitors.

Recommended for Tapas because: Great Indian tapas dishes make Mother India a wonderful place to enjoy a bite with friends.

Simon's expert tip: Service is generally fast so this is a great choice if you want to grab a tasty Indian meal in a hurry.

Read more about Mother India's Cafe →


Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk Indian Street Food is a welcome new addition to Edinburgh which brings with it an exuberant love of Indian street food and a kitsch sense of humor. The decor is bright and vibrant with retro Bollywood posters, garishly colored chairs, and huge tangerine letters (T.U.K) suspended in the three large windows. The food is similarly exuberant with a selection of tapas style dishes to choose from, some mildly and delicately spiced, others fiery and rich. The also do a great lamb curry and two western offerings (t-bone steak and a mixed grill) for those not in the mood for mix and match dishes.

Recommended for Tapas because: Tuk Tuk serves wonderful tapas style Southern Indian dishes.

Simon's expert tip: Monday at Tuk Tuk is Matka Monday, which means at the end of your meal you can roll a dice – and if you roll a six then it's free.

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Indaba offers an unusual blend of classic Spanish tapas dishes with South American and South African dishes and a few Scottish favorites. Although this combination sounds unusual, in practice it is rather refreshing. The traditional tapas dishes are lovingly created and will please any lover of Andalusian cuisine. The South African and South American dishes are deliciously different. Some of the flavor combinations (such as South American arepas filled with Scottish haggis) are an unexpected delight and the homemade desserts are quite wonderful. Indaba is Zulu for "meeting" and the warm welcome and tasty morsels are certainly conducive to a convivial atmosphere.

Recommended for Tapas because: Indaba offers a unique and delicious blend of cuisines from Spain, South America and South Africa.

Simon's expert tip: Don't miss the Torta Llorona (crying cake), which oozes a delicious hot chocolate sauce when you break it open.

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Linked to Igg's Restaurant in the Old Town is the hip and trendy Barioja Tapas Bar. Barioja shares a kitchen with Iggs, and both are managed by the flamboyant Iggy Campos, so a certain level of quality is to be expected. However, Barioja is much less formal and adopts a chic laid back demeanor. The décor is fairly minimalist with only the blackboards listing the daily specials and deals and the occasional Spanish flag to give a sense of character. The menu does not stray far from the usual suspects, but each dish is well prepared and the portions are generous. The bar is very well stocked and complements the high quality tapas. All in all, Barioja is a great place to enjoy tapas with friends.

Recommended for Tapas because: Barioja is one of Edinburgh's oldest tapas restaurants, and still a great favorite.

Simon's expert tip: The cellar, known as la bodega, can be booked for private parties and is a great place for a get together.

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Situated in a converted bonded warehouse in a cobbled street behind the Shore in Leith, Tapa offers patrons a wide range of traditional tapas dishes and a few surprises. Simple wooden tables and chairs are complemented by the warm colors of the posters and the decorations that adorn the plain white walls, giving the restaurant a chic and relaxed environment. The enthusiasm for Andalusian and Spanish food is clear and most of the ingredients are sourced from small, independent producers. The result is delicious, fresh and authentic dishes which are bound to delight any lover of tapas. While many tapas menus feature rather uninspiring desserts, Tapa offers a great range of mouthwatering treats to finish your meal.

Recommended for Tapas because: Tapa focuses on fresh ingredients to produce authentic tapas, but also has a few lovely surprises.

Simon's expert tip: The Basque Txistorra chorizo style sausage in a bun is definitely the most delicious hot dog you are ever likely to taste.

Read more about Tapa →


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Meet Simon Hill

Simon has lived in various corners of Edinburgh over the last 18 years. He fell in love with the city as a small child after visiting the castle and returned to study Scottish History.

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